Everything Lyft Drivers Need to Know About Rideshare in 2018
Lyft offers their drivers ultimate flexibility on when and where Lyft Drivers can earn money. There are many features on Lyft and it takes a few weeks to learn them all. All Lyft drivers need to treat this as a business instead of a job. This means that you will need to figure out the best ways to drive and figure out how Lyft can work for you, not the other way around.
This post will cover all of the Lyft features and regulations and also many tips on how to improve your Lyft income.
If you are not a Lyft driver, you can easily sign up with Lyft to become a Lyft driver. Just sign up with the below referral link to get your signup bonus:
Then, follow the instructions in the below post to become a Lyft Driver:
Products and Apps I Use as a Lyft Driver
Below are some of the products I use as a Lyft driver on a day to day basis:
- Smart phone – this is a standard among sharing economy jobs
- Car charger – USB Quick Charge 3.0 Dual Car Charger
- Phone mount for car – Cell Phone Car Mount Holder
- Navigation application – Google Maps or Waze – to navigate to the restaurant and dropoff
- Mileage Tracker – keep track of miles so drivers can deduct the miles. I personally recommend Automatic Pro.
When you start the Lyft Driver app, the first thing you see is the Lyft Dashboard. On the Lyft Dashboard, you will see any announcement in your local area, the coverage map with locations with Personal Power Zones (Lyft surge pricing).
On the Lyft Driver App, the areas highlighted in pink and purple are areas with Personal Power Zones (more information on that later). It is ideal if you are in those highlighted areas. This will ensure that you get a ride quickly and sometimes a ride with a fixed bonus per trip. Trips that are accepted when the driver is in a Personal Power Zone will pay more than a normal trip.
How to go Online as a Lyft Driver
As a Lyft driver, all you need to do is turn on your Lyft Driver app and toggle the button on the top middle of the Lyft Dashboard. You don’t need to be on schedule to go online, but there may be some hours that is better to be online than others.
Different Types of Lyft Rides
You will see what type of Lyft ride it is before you accept. Here are the different types of Lyft rides:
- Lyft Line – This is a shared ride between multiple groups of passengers. You are paid the same rate as a regular Lyft (time and distance and any Prime Time or Personal Power Zone pricing if available). When you pick up and drop off multiple passengers, it will take more time and distance so you may be paid more than a regular Lyft Ride
- Regular Lyft – This is a single pickup and dropoff. You are paid by time and distance with any applicable Prime Time or Personal Power Zone pricing
- Lyft Plus – This is a ride request for 5 or more passengers. Only drivers with vehicles that can fit 7 or more passengers including the driver will see these requests. It pays more than a regular Lyft ride
- Lyft LUX– This is a ride request for premium vehicles. Click here to see the list of Lyft LUX Vehicles
- Lyft LUX Black/LUX Black SUV – This is a ride request for luxury vehicles (nicer than premium vehicles). Lux SUV is a ride request for Luxury SUVs. Click here to see the list of Lyft LUX Black Vehicles
The Lyft Ride as a Lyft Driver
The Lyft Ride can be broken down into three phase:
Accepting Lyft Rides
A notification will appear on your phone when a Lyft ride request comes to you. You have about 10 seconds to accept the trip. It will tell you how far away the Lyft ride pickup is in minutes, the rating of the passenger, what type of ride it is (Regular Lyft, Lyft Line, Lyft Plus, etc) and if there is any Prime Time Pricing in it.
Lyft Ride Pickup
Once you accept the Lyft Ride, it will show the location of the Lyft pickup. You will see the name or address of the location on the top of the Lyft Driver app and the name on the bottom. Once you are at the location, tap the bottom button to notify your passenger you have arrived. A 5 minute timer will count down for Lyft rides, and a 2 minute timer will count down on Lyft Line rides only. If the passenger shows up before the timer hits 0, tap the bottom button to pick up the passenger.
If the passenger isn’t in your car when the timer hits 0, call the passenger to see where they are. If they are still far away, then you can mark them “No-Show.” If the ride is a Lyft Line, you don’t need to call the passenger and you can mark them “No-Show” and drive to the next destination. In both cases, you will get a cancellation fee.
Drive to Drop Off
The next step is to follow the instructions on the Lyft driver app and drive to the next location. For Lyft lines, it can be the next passenger pickup, but for any other rides, it will be the drop off location.
Once you are at the next location, hit the button on the bottom again. If it is Lyft Line, it may be either dropping off your passenger or arriving at the next destination. If it is any other type of ride, click the bottom “drop off your passenger” button to end the trip.
Back to Back Rides
Lyft has the default feature where it will automatically accept the next ride for you while you are on a Lyft Ride. This is the most annoying feature on Lyft and you cannot turn this feature off. When it is busy, I will toggle the online button during my Lyft ride and say to go offline after the current trip to prevent Lyft from automatically accepting the next trip. This is mainly to avoid Lyft Line Rides. Lyft will automatically accept any type of request and I typically do not accept any Lyft Line rides unless I am very far from the center of the city.
Lyft Line Rides
While Lyft Line rides pays the same rate as a regular Lyft ride, I find myself making a little less money on Lyft Line rides. Lyft Line rides are often more complicated, so I tend to avoid them. There are situations where I need to accept Lyft Line rides. The biggest reason to accept Lyft Line rides is when it is not very busy or you are very far away from a busy part of town. I accept Lyft Line trips in the hopes that the passenger needs to go very far and that they are going to a busy part of the city.
The other lesser reason to accept Lyft Lines is to attain a bonus, like the Power Driver Bonus or the streak bonus. In my experience, you essentially break even with Lyft line and attaining various levels of the bonus. Say you accept Lyft lines and get more rides and get a higher bonus. I often make a similar amount of money just accept regular Lyft rides and getting a smaller bonus. The small issue is that you have to turn off back to back rides, which reduces the number of rides you get that in turn reduces your revenue. I find that while it takes me more time to attain a bonus, I earn much more money per hour when I do not accept Lyft Line.
Once you drive more often, you will figure out your own Lyft Line acceptance criteria.
Lyft Personal Power Zones (Or Prime Time Pricing)
Lyft recently changed their surcharge pricing when it is busy. Lyft’s surcharge was called Prime Time Pricing. It was a multiplier (25% to 600%) Lyft puts on rides that are requested when it is very busy. They have recently switched to “Personal Power Zones” and it looks something like this:
How it works is that if you are in the shaded region, you will get a flat rate surcharge for any ride you accept within that zone. Typically, I’ll only get one or maybe two trips within the surcharge areas. The fixed rate “Personal Power Zones” favors short rides and isn’t as lucrative on very long trips. I typically only get short trips when there is Prime Time, so I like this system. I also do not drive after large events and Personal Power Zones do not compensate drivers properly after large events like sports games and concerts. Uber has separate promotions for large events and I would expect Lyft to have similar incentives after large events to maintain an incentive for drivers to work after large events.
To see the number of cars in the Lyft Airport queue, click on the balloon at the airport:
Most of the time, it is not worth it to wait in the Airport Queue. You can often get a trip much faster if you leave the airport than stay. I don’t regularly get very lucrative rides at the airport, so while it is nice if I can get a ride from the airport, I don’t need to get one. In Boston, downtown is just 10 minutes away so I often pay the toll and go back into the city to get another ride.
On a normal day in Boston, the airport queue for both Lyft and Uber are often around 100-120 drivers. When it is super slow in Boston during the summer, I have seen the queue over 200 drivers. In my experience in Boston, it takes around an hour to clear 60 drivers. 120 drivers will take two hours to clear. When it gets really busy, 100 drivers can be requested in 30 minutes. If it is busy at the airport, you will see the queue much shorter. I typically enter the airport queue when it shows around 60 drivers. I know that since the queue is low, more drivers are coming into the queue, but it still stays low. This means that the queue is moving much faster than normal. I don’t typically go out of my way to go to the airport queue. I will only enter if I’m already at the airport, or I’m near the airport and driving towards the city. Some people (taxi cabs) stream back to the airport and wait for hours for a ride. That strategy must work for them, but since there are many rides at any time of day, I rather drive outside the airport than wait inside the airport queue.
Since Boston Logan airport is so close to downtown Boston, I typically use the airport as a litmus test of how busy it is on Lyft and Uber. If the queue is really high (180), then it is very slow in Boston. If the queue is 60, then it is either really busy in the city or really busy at the airport. I will typically see a low airport queue if there is Prime Time pricing in downtown Boston. Prime Time pricing will draw drivers away from the airport and into the city.
Here are some suggestions on how to pass the time in the Airport queue:
- Rest or Nap
- Book or surfing the internet with laptop/tablet
- Cleaning or detailing car
If want to rest for an hour or two, you can try to stop by a car wash and grab a quick sandwich before getting into the airport queue. You can spend the time napping and then detailing your car (vacuum and spray wax).
In most states, there are limits on how much a rideshare driver can be online for. The general rule on Lyft is that you must take a 6-hour break if you work 14 consecutive hours.
Here is the rule in Massachusetts:
After 12 consecutive hours in driver mode in a 24-hour period, you must take a break for at least 8 consecutive hours.
There are ways to avoid these restrictions, such as doing Lyft only for a few hours, then Uber only for a few hours. Supposedly, drivers are limited across all platforms, but there isn’t a formal way for the city to find out, so drivers often get away with it. To formally get around the Massachusetts rule, you can drive for 6 hours in the morning (say 7am to 1pm), then take a break for a few hours, then start up again around 4-10pm.
I don’t believe drivers can drive for more than 14 hours a day for the entire week unless they spend significant amounts of time in the Airport Queue. Time spent in the Airport Queue counts towards the hourly limits.
You can see the hour limits and other local laws in the below link:
The pay period for Lyft is Monday at 5am to the following Monday at 4:59am. Your earnings will be deposited on Tuesday morning. I typically get my deposits on Friday, but others have seen deposits on Wednesday or Thursday. It depends on your bank and what type of account you have. I have a free checking account and I believe they slow down deposits to earn extra income from holding onto deposits.
You can also use Express Pay and deposit it instantly to any debit card. It is subject to a small fee of 50 cents. This has helped some drivers because they can work and get cash in their account on the same day.
Lyft Hourly Pay Potential
The hourly income a Lyft driver can earn varies a lot by city and times they drive. In Seattle, I typically average around $22 an hour while I’m averaging around $28 an hour in Boston with fewer miles driven. In both cities, I didn’t see much Prime Time pricing in either city in the last two years and most of my trips were at regular rates.
Best Times to Drive as a Lyft Driver
The best times to drive are:
- Friday and Saturday nights
- During the day Sunday
- Weekday mornings
- Weekday during daytime hours
Some drivers have a lot of luck with driving overnight hours (12am – 7am) since there is little traffic and fewer Lyft drivers on the road. If you are a part time driver, driving on Friday nights, Saturday and Sunday will be your best bet. If you want to drive full time, I recommend driving mostly weekdays. I find that it is plenty busy on Mondays and Fridays and less demand during the middle of the week.
Lyft Driver Insurance
Lyft drivers are protected by Lyft Insurance while you are online. The major risk is the Primary Automobile liability insurance that carries a $2500 deductible, regardless of fault. Any Lyft driver who has gotten into an accident were shocked by that high deductible.
Below are the terms of Lyft commercial insurance:
- Contingent Liability (coverage only while in driver mode waiting for a ride request)
- Primary Automobile Liability ($2500 deductible regardless of fault)
- Contingent Comprehensive & Collision (only if you carry personal comprehensive and collision insurance. The default is typically just liability for personal insurance)
- Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM)
Expenses of a Lyft Driver
The major expense for a Lyft driver is your vehicle. The newer and more expensive your car is, the higher your expenses are. When you drive on Lyft, you are converting your equity in your vehicle into cash. When you consider this, you should get the cheapest car you can to do Lyft, especially if you plan on doing it full time. This will lower your expenses and make Lyft much more profitable.
The main portion of your expenses is depreciation, maintenance, gas, and insurance. Below is a table of Total Cost of Ownership for a 2013 Elantra GLS Sedan:
|Taxes & Fees||$670||$0||$60||$0||$60||$790|
|True Cost to Own ®||$7,082||$4,423||$4,237||$4,953||$4,990||$25,685|
Depreciation is a major expense most drivers don’t even consider. If you purchase a cheaper car, cost of insurance will also be lower, but maintenance and repairs may be higher.
If you are looking to get a car just for Lyft, I would recommend getting a car around $5-$7k. These cars will be good enough over the next few years that you won’t need major repairs, but cheap enough to lower your expenses and insurance rates. While some people buy hybrid vehicles to save on gas, I prefer an economical non-hybrid car due to lower price.
The biggest mistake Lyft drivers make is that they get a brand new car to drive on Lyft. This is the worst thing you can do since your expense will be very high and you are earning the same amount of money as someone who has a car that is worth $5k.
Common Issues as a Lyft Driver
Blind Destination System
The blind destination system won’t allow you to see the drop off location until you have arrived at your pickup location. Some rides are very short, and some rides are very long. Lyft has recently implemented a notification where it will say if it is a long ride, typically longer than 45 minutes. However, you still don’t know where it is going.
Back to Back Rides
I personally feel as if this is an issue with Lyft, not a feature. Back to Back Rides auto accepts your next ride request and half of the time, it is a Lyft line. I typically don’t accept Lyft Lines unless there are not a lot of requests or if I am going for a streak or bonus. I will turn off Back to Back rides by going offline after completing the current ride.
Passengers not arriving on time
Occasionally, passengers will take a few minutes to reach your car. Waiting 4 minutes for every customer can amount to waiting 45 minutes if you have 10 trips that day, which can cut into your income potential. Most passengers come out within a minute or two so this isn’t as much of an issue as it used to be a few years ago.
Issues with Passenger Location
There are a few passengers who end up putting in the wrong location. It is a mixture of an issue with their smartphone GPS and an oversight of their real location. Lyft has implemented a live tracker feature on your passenger so you know where they are standing, which is very helpful.
Lyft’s term of service requires account holders to be at least 18 years of age, but I occasionally receive requests from middle and high school students looking for a ride to/from school. I typically check their pickup and destination and cancel if I know they are going to school. I also tell them that it is against the Lyft’s terms of service for underage passengers to take a Lyft without their parent or an adult. I typically avoid driving around when school is let out around 2pm since I will get many requests from middle and high schools.
How Do I Become A Better Lyft Driver
Experience is the biggest factor in your performance as a Lyft Driver. As you drive more on Lyft, you will learn more about Lyft and also the city. In-depth knowledge of the city resolves many issues with Lyft since the number one issue passenger flags is navigation. While Google and Waze GPS are great applications, it often doesn’t do well in knowing exactly where a passenger will be at a given location. Also, GPS tends to have trouble in crowded downtown areas where buildings reflect GPS signals, causing navigation issues.
I say that it takes at least 30 Lyft rides to really get the hang of Lyft, and about 100 to really feel confident driving on Lyft.
What is the Best Way to Drive on Lyft?
Here are some tips that I think will help your driving
- Setting a schedule – Gone are the days of a lot of Personal Power Zones or Prime Time Pricing. Most trips will be at the regular rate and its hard to be motivated to drive when you don’t see any pink or red on the map. The key is just to sign online and accept as many trips as you can.
- Drive for a few hours at a time – I find that if you drive for multiple hours at a time, you tend to earn more per hour. You may get a few short trips in hour 1, but then a few long trips in hour 2 that makes up for hour 1. I don’t typically recommend driving for only an hour or 90 minutes since after 90 minutes, you may be on the other side of the city.
- Schedule driving around your errands – If you plan on being 10 miles from the city, plan your day so that you can get a few rides on your way back home. If you can drive for a few hours, I would not turn on destination filter until you really want to go home. Chances are you may get a ride closer to home.
- Use Destination Filter liberally – I find myself not using it often enough. Lyft doesn’t officially limit the number of times you can use it in a day but they will disable that option if you use it too often over the course of a day or two. Note that you will have fewer rides so only use it when you need to be somewhere in a relative short period of time
- Prepare for down time – You may not be driving all the time so plan on something to do when waiting between rides. I normally don’t need to wait more than a few minutes for a ride, so I will check my email and look up things on the internet to fill the time. If you plan on waiting at the airport, bring a book or laptop and be productive during your down time. If you feel tired and just dropped off someone at the airport, you can get into the airport queue and take a nap. Airport queue is also a great place for lunch (get food before entering queue) or detailing/cleaning your car.
- Setting a daily goal – Some full time drivers set a monetary goal for the day and they typically go home after they hit a certain goal. This may help motivate you to drive more if you set your goal high.
- Lyft Line – For new drivers, avoid Lyft line. It is a hassle that is not worth the time, so just skip it during your first 30 rides. I often ignore Lyft Line because it is more hassle than its worth.
Have more questions about Uber or Lyft? Head on over to our Rideshare Driver Training Course! Driver Promotions